Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Marketing online resources: Getting creative

When I talk about creating marketing materials, either to a college class or workshop of library staff members, I always talk about being creative. Creativity means thinking outside of the box and often that is what we really need in order to get people to notice our online resources. With some online collections, the target audience is in the organization's (e.g. library's) region. These are people who can be found...and finding them is often where creativity comes into play.

Let's say that you -- perhaps a library or museum -- have created an online collection of immigrant history in your region. You know that this resource would be useful to students studying local history, as well as members of the community who wanted to learn about their history. How might you creatively market this resource? Here are a few ideas:

  • Send a press release to your local media outlets. Peak the reader's interest by including information on some intriguing piece of history documented in the collection. (Often when I'm talking about Winning the Vote and can pull up an image for the group to see, I use this photo of a suffragist parade that shows the women wearing clothing that resembles something worn by the Klu Klux Klan. Intrigued? Of course you are...and any reporter would be too!)

    By the way, be sure you send your press release to a specific person, then call that person to ensure that it was received. With so many press releases received by the media each day, this extra effort will help to get yours noticed.

  • Create posters about the collection and post them around town.

    First, make the posters eye-catching. Considering including an image from the collection or intriguing questions about local history (which of course can be answered by looking at the collection) -- you goal here is to get the person to stop and really read the poster.

    Second, ensure that the posters can be read at a distance. Often we make the print too small, so that someone has to be standing next to the poster in order to read them. A good rule is to make the letters 1" in height for every ten feet of viewing distance.

    Third, find places to hang these posters where your target audience gathers: youth centers, pizza parlors, churches and clubs formed by the immigrants, school classrooms (history classes), teachers' lounges... Do ask for permission to post, so that your poster isn't removed and trashed.

  • Consider using your building as a canvas for your advertisement/marketing. Could you place a banner on the building that advertising this new collection? Could you do a chalk "drawing" on the sidewalk that promoted this new collection? (This is a technique used by students on college campus.)

    If you can't afford a banner, see if a local business will donate the money for one. Another option would be to create a banner out of white sheets. You might even have a contest to see who could create the best banner to advertise this new collection.

  • Create a give-away that markets the collection. We always think of bookmarks, but you should also consider binder clips (or potato bag clips), magnets, squeeze balls, etc. Get as much relative information on the item as possible, although you may be limited to just the name of the collection and your organization's name (or URL). Be sure to give away items that people tend to keep (like magnets). Look around your house/office and you'll quickly see what these items are. (One library on Long Island gave away car air fresheners that had promotional information on them. Very creative and a big hit.)

  • Finally, no matter what you do, ensure that you talk about the collection in way that makes sense to your target audience. Don't use jargon or library-speak (or museum-speak). Talk your audience's language. (More about this tomorrow.)

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